US Capitol curators have requested $25,000 in emergency conservation funding to repair art damaged when pro-Trump rioters stormed the government building on January 6.
There are 13,000 objects in the House collection, including portraits, photographs, and campaign memorabilia, 535 items of which were on display during the insurrection. Some of them were spared by quick thinking on part of staffers — such as a 1819 silver inkstand, the oldest object in the Chamber, which was secured by a journal clerk.
But that was not the case for every piece in the sprawling collection. In addition to looting and damaging furniture and spraying graffiti throughout the complex, insurrectionists vandalized six sculptures and two paintings.
Several objects in the corridors adjacent to the House Chamber doors were covered in chemical residue from fire extinguishers and bear spray that rioters used to blind officers. According to a report by the Capitol’s curatorial team, fire extinguisher particulate can discolor surfaces, especially porous stones like the marble and granite of busts of Speakers Joe Cannon, Champ Clark, Joe Martin, and Thomas Brackett Reed that were on view during the siege.
A bronze bust of Chippewa statesman Be sheekee, one of the few representations of Native American figures in the Capitol, and a statue of Thomas Jefferson, are also among the impacted works.
“Each year, the funds appropriated to the Clerk include plans for scheduled, programmatic conservation work. The damage from January 6, however, was significant,” said Farar Elliott, curator of the House of Representatives, in a testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee last month.
The budget for collection care includes funds to cover a single unforeseen conservation emergency each year, such as HVAC failures. “In the past, that emergency plan has been sufficient,” Elliott said. “The current emergency conservation needs will require funds beyond our current
contingency plan and beyond our six-object annual conservation plan.”
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.